If formatting your novel is the only thing that is holding you back from publishing it, then today is your lucky day. Formatting a novel for publishing via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is about as simple as it gets. While there are a lot of online resources that discuss manuscript formatting, I get the idea that many of them seriously overcomplicate the process. If your goal is to just publish something already, then I recommend you start with KDP. You can always move on to the more complicated methods later, once you have a better understanding of how this whole eBook thing works.
The first thing you should do is purchase a few mainstream eBooks and study how they are formatted. Then you should KISS it (Keep It Simple, Stupid.) While some books may rely heavily on images and special formatting, most novels do not need them and should not incorporate them within the eBook version. If your book relies heavily on images or infographs, then this blog post probably isn’t for you. However, if you want to get your book out there in the fastest and easiest way possible, then scrap the images and fancy fonts, and just get to it.
Here are a couple of the most important formatting concepts I have come across in my research and publishing so far:
- Include a cover page and copyright page. Not sure what to include? Well, just grab your favorite print book in the same genre and examine the first couple of pages of the book. Include what they included and format your manuscript accordingly.
- Indent paragraphs for fiction.
- You CAN use page breaks in Word and expect KDP to place them correctly in your eBook. Anyway, it worked for me.
- Don’t spend too much time worrying about formatting your headings. KDP will convert your headings to whatever generic fonts it has in stock anyway, so there’s no point wasting time with this on your end. Just use the generic headings provided with Word and move on.
- Just do it. That’s it. Try it, review it, and edit whatever didn’t come out the way you expected it to. Play with your file until you’re happy with the final product, and then hit the “publish” button. It’s not rocket science.
Once you have uploaded your file to KDP, you will be given the option to preview your eBook prior to publishing. Take this opportunity to work your way through your book page-by-page in search of both wonky formatting issues and typos. No matter how many times you proofread your novel before you uploaded it, I guarantee you will find at least one more typo.
After you look at your document a million times, you begin to experience what is commonly referred to as “editor’s fatigue.” After a while, you begin to see what you think you put on the page rather than what you actually put on the page. Your eye will skip right over those typos like they’re not even there.
The simple act of moving your manuscript to a different format – in this case, the KDP previewing pane – will give you a fresh perspective and allow you to spot those little errors that you missed on every previous pass-through. So please, do not skip this step.
This is my first time publishing, so there may be items that I have missed. But this is a quick run-through of what I have learned so far. As I mentioned before, it seems to me that the best way to determine how to format your eBook for publishing with KDP is to study other books and see how they are doing it. Then just do it yourself and see how it comes out. If you don’t like the result, you can always stop short of actually publishing it. The best (and possibly also the worst) part about indie publishing is the fact that you’re the boss. You can back out any time you like.
So now, you tell me: What are the worst formatting issues you have encountered when reading or publishing eBooks? What should we look out for and/or keep in mind when formatting our eBooks? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Click here to get your copy of my recently released eBook, Loosely Collected: A Book of Poems.